A march against the “Islamization of the West” in the German city of Dresden attracted about 10,000 people on Monday.
Participants gathered under banners reading “Protect our homeland” and “No Shari‘a law in Europe,” but also the famous slogan “We are the people,” used during the demonstrations that led up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, reports the BBC.
“There’s freedom of assembly in Germany, but there’s no place for incitement and lies about people who come to us from other countries,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
“Everyone [who attends] needs to be careful that they are not taken advantage of by the people who organize such events.”
It is the ninth week in a row that a movement called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (Pegida) is organizing protests in the German state of Saxony, but Monday’s march is the biggest by far.
Frauke Petry, Dresden leader of the Pegida-sympathetic party Alternativ für Deutschland, said the march was “protesting against inadequate legislation on asylum rights.”
Germany accepts more asylum seekers than any other country, and immigration rates have surged because of the wars in Syria and Iraq. However, a mere 2% of Saxony’s population is foreign, and only a fraction of them Muslim, the New York Times points out.
Considering the country’s troubled past with extreme right-wing politics, the protests have shocked many Germans. Justice Minister Heiko Maas has called them “a disgrace” and the Social Democrats, part of the ruling coalition, have branded them “Nazis in pinstripes.”